Sometimes I perform this live to illustrate how funny humans are. I thought I’d post it here too:
When my friend asked me to be her bridesmaid, I said yes. In my near 30 years of life nobody had asked me to be in their wedding, and I was dying for an opportunity to prove to my family I had a friend.
Then she told me her wedding was in Australia. Shit. In order to be in someone’s inner circle, I had to take an expensive trip. I’m not the type of good friend who will pay a thousand dollars for airfare and spend the week running around preparing for someone else’s big day. If I was going to spend a thousand dollars, I would have to see all of Australia. And if I was flying all the way to Australia, I would have to see Papua New Guinea too.
I also decided that I couldn’t go all the way to Papua New Guinea without seeing Japan, and I couldn’t go all the way to Japan without seeing Vietnam. So, I quit my job and decided to travel around the world for a year. Sometimes you have to go to some great lengths to be a good friend.
Since I was so busy putting things in storage before my trip, I had no time to research anything. I knew nothing about Papua New Guinea except that it was next to Australia. I saw that there was a cheap flight to the mountain town of Tari so I booked one. I did read one blog that said I had to write a letter (with a pen and paper– the horror!) to the one hotel owner in Tari. They had no phone or internet. No phone or internet? How did they live? I wrote the letter, excited to see what type of world could exist without email forwards from moms or status updates about True Blood. I feared a culture I could not win over with jokes about MySpace. Top 8!
After the wedding, at which I was the only single person, I was on my own to travel like the hippie backpacker I always knew I was.
I popped in a book shop to ask for a travel guide for Papua New Guinea.
“Why would you ever go there?” the shop owner asked. “I guarantee you’ll be raped.”
I felt scared. And slightly excited.
I did a quick internet search and found a news story about Papua New Guinean women killing male babies to stop tribal wars. I’m not a male baby, and I don’t believe rumors ever since Donnie D’Alesandro told the whole junior high I put a cordless phone antenna up my vagina. Of course I was still going to Papua New Guinea.
I stepped off the plane with an German man.
“You’re here alone?” he asked. “You better watch out. You’re going to get raped.”
I started to wonder if raping was just some sort of New Guinean custom. In Spain people greet each other with two kisses. In Papua New Guinea, maybe it’s a quick rape.
Again, I felt scared and slightly excited.
I had one night in the capital city of Port Moresby before I headed out to Tari the next day. I found a helpful welcome packet in my hotel room. It said atop a bright picture of a sun, “Welcome to Port Moresby! Please do not go outside. AT ALL. Even in the daylight. It’s not safe for tourists.”
Hmmm… At this point I began to worry a little. I spent the night paying $25/hr to send goodbye emails to friends. And I wrote my will. My mom got everything in storage, which was a papazan chair and a magic bullet blender.
The next morning, I hopped in my airport shuttle freshly shaven in case I was raped. I asked my shuttle driver what was the deal with the danger and the raping. He said, “Don’t worry about it. Most people who go to Tari come back.” “Most people?” I asked him. But by then the shuttle was being hijacked, so he didn’t have time to explain.
From the plane, the country looked fake, a series of rivers criss-crossing perfectly like freeways. The amount of untouched green was shocking. A country can sure be beautiful when Westerners don’t barge in, claim the land for development, and kill off the natives. The passenger next to me was not wearing shoes and had two teeth. He did not seem at all like a rapist, so I settled in for adventure.
The airport in Tari was a fence. When I got off the plane, thousands of villagers were waiting to see who was cool enough to ride a plane. That’s what you do when you don’t have phones or email. You gather to watch planes land. So many strange black faces stared at me through the fence. I was the one white lady as far as the eye could see, even a really good eye with 20/20 vision. I understood what it must have been like for the one black kid in my high school who everyone just expected to play basketball. These people just expected I buy stuff from them.
First I had to find my guy, the one who surely had received my letter and was waiting for me to arrive. He wasn’t there.
“Oh, that guy,” someone said. “He had to pay a tribal compensation so he went to go buy some pigs.”
Oh. Ok. Of course, sure.
Patrick, the self-appointed mayor of the mountain, took me under his wing and brought me back to his village to stay with his sister, Janet. It was there I immersed myself in true Papua New Guinean culture.
I was one of the few white people to ever grace the town. The first one arrived in 1932 wearing pants and looking for gold. The villagers had never seen pants before, so they assumed he had a penis down to his ankle. They didn’t realize the white man was a human being until they spied on him and saw that he also squatted in the bushes to excrete brown snakes. Swear.
White people to these villagers are pretty gross. A baby saw me and burst into tears. Cosmo magazine does not have Tarian issue, but if they did, the models in it would be large, dark skinned women with beat up hands. Men there like a woman who looks like she can work hard under the sun. The more meat on her the better.
I told them that people had warned me I’d be raped, and they laughed and cackled. “Who would want to rape you?” They said with disgust. You are not fat enough. They gave me advice on how to be prettier though: eat more. I’m working on it.
I have to admit that I felt a bit hurt for not being rapable. My instinct was to show them an American magazine and say ‘Hey look! This is the ideal you should be reaching for.’
But then I heard myself telling them about our beauty ideals.
Well, I said to shocked faces, We pay a lot of money to have a doctor break our noses and then shave the bones down and then put it all back together.
Then they told me about marriages. Women are bought with 30-60 pigs and if a man is rich, he can buy as many brides as he wants. People hardly ever marry for love and couples never sleep in the same bed.
I thought that was tragic and wanted to teach them about ‘Romeo and Juliet’ or another famous love story like ‘No Strings Attached.’ But then I heard myself telling them about American marriages.
Well, I said to more shocked faces, we marry just one person. But most of us decide we don’t like them anymore after a few years. And many women in their forties shove silicone bags under their nipples and wear slutty dresses in bars so they can find a second or third husband.
Then they told me about the lady friend. If a woman is menstruating, she is not allowed out of her hut and she can’t talk to men.
I wanted to call Gloria Steinem and get her there to fix these misogynists!
But then I heard myself telling them about abortion.
Well, I said to more and more shocked faces, women pay a doctor to take a machine and kill the baby while it’s inside of them and then suck it out through a large straw.
They had never heard of straws. Or Michael Jackson, electricity, sunscreen, wifi, soy lattes or even cheese.
I felt the urge to run home, grab some electricity, a pizza, and a Netflix password to catch them up on everything. My instinct was to show these people what’s right and teach them that they should venture off their mountain and see the beach. Find some manchego!
But who am I to say which lifestyle is better? I watch The Jersey Shore. (I mean, only sometimes. Not religiously or anything.)
I was able to shower away my self-righteousness in the village’s cool natural stream after eating fresh pesticide-free vegetables from their gardens. Though those villagers convinced me to give them all my cash, I wasted no money at all. What I bought was perspective. And it’s what I needed so that I could truly appreciate all the other cultures I encountered during that whole year of traveling.
Come to find out, I am unrapable in several other countries.